As space exploration shifts from the public sector, the money-making opportunities that shuttle flights to the moon can offer private companies have raised concerns about historical preservation, a story posted Monday on NBCNews.com
Congressional leaders who are worried about the site of the Apollo landings of the 1960s — the boot prints, the American flag, and all — introduced legislation to establish those areas as a national park with restrictions on usage.
But policymakers said such a bill violates the United Nation's Outer Space Treaty, which has been ratified by 127 nations, including the United States.
"They tried to carefully say it wouldn't violate the treaty's sovereignty issues," said Henry Hertzfeld, of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute.
"First of all, I think it does, but secondly, even if it doesn't, other nations, including our friends and allies, are going to look at that and say, 'They're declaring sovereignty and violating the treaty.' It's going to be interpreted as yet another aggressive U.S. action," Hertzfeld said.
In November, Hertzfeld proposed a more effective method of keeping NASA's moon-landing sites, as well as those of other nations, intact. The proposal, published in the journal Science,
said the countries should work together to establish a set of ground rules aimed at protecting their lunar lore.
"The idea is, you leave our stuff alone, we'll leave your stuff alone," he said. "I'm trying not to focus on property rights or specific equipment. I'm just trying to say, at least, for an easy start to protect what's there, you take every precaution not to mess around with what we have, and we'll do the same thing."
Space entrepreneurs raring to develop passenger-delivery systems to the moon would be required to get government approval before they launch tourists into the atmosphere, Hertzfeld said.
"Anybody that would go up in a private company would need a license of some sort from their governments, even if it's just a launch license," he said. "It's really, for the most part, not a private-industry question, but a government question."
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